Online Safety and Media Regulation Bill needs to mark the end of self-regulation for the tech and social media giants say Children’s Rights Campaigners
Ahead of an appearance at the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Media, Tourism, Arts, Culture, Sport and Gaeltacht later today (13.05.2021), the Children’s Rights Alliance, CyberSafeKids and the ISPCC are urging legislators to use the Bill to mark the end of self-regulation for tech and social media giants.
“Over the last year, we have seen how young people have relied on the internet to communicate with their friends and family, to stay connected while being isolated from their schools and communities, and to engage with their education. However, with the increased use and dependency on online platforms there is also increased risk. We want every child to be empowered to enjoy the full benefits of the internet but to have that experience be as safe and positive as possible. For too long now, the responsibility to keep yourself safe has rested with young users themselves or with their parents. The expectation has been with children, parents or teachers to take action when something goes wrong. We are saying enough is enough. Government action in this space has already been delayed. The new Online Safety and Media Regulation (OSMR) Bill presents an opportunity for Government to put in place measures that will make the digital space a safer one for children and young people but in order for it to work it must name the Online Safety Commissioner and ensure they can make direct complaints where they can’t get any satisfaction from the online platform,” said Tanya Ward, Chief Executive of the Children’s Rights Alliance.
“Self-regulation simply does not go far enough. When families come to us for support, it is often after a lengthy difficult battle to try find a solution. For the child or young person experiencing an issue with an online platform or online content, weeks can feel like a lifetime and yet some are fighting for up to two years to have content removed. It simply isn’t good enough. This Bill needs to ensure that an Online Safety Commissioner is established so that online platforms and services are held accountable. We want to see an Online Safety Commissioner that plays a central role in setting a high bar for safety and is sufficiently resourced to take action when platforms and companies fall below that threshold,” added Alex Cooney, CEO of CyberSafeKids. “With children as young as eight now online, on smartphones, creating social media profiles, we expect this Bill to put the onus on the tech industry to incorporate a safety by design approach.”
John Church, Chief Executive of the ISPCC stated, “The Committee has already heard that the lack of an individual complaints mechanism was referred to as the single biggest weakness of the OSMR Bill as it stands. Our concern is that without it, not only is the Bill weaker but it will actually be a retrograde step from a children’s right perspective. We hear from children and families every week through Childline that experience immense difficulty raising issues and complaints in the digital space. Without an individual complaints mechanism, this legislation will deny them the right to an effective and efficient remedy, the significance of which cannot be underplayed. Ensuring there is somewhere for young people to go when they cannot get a solution through other means could, in some cases, be life-saving. It is also imperative that the Online Safety Commissioner be equipped with appropriate powers including takedown orders that will also serve to ensure illegal or harmful content which we know can cause long-lasting harm, is removed in a timely manner.”
The need for an Online Safety Commissioner with appropriately strong powers to hold tech companies accountable and the inclusion of an individual complaints mechanism will be a central focus of a new national campaign on online safety supported by The Community Foundation for Ireland via The RTÉ does Comic Relief Fund and co-ordinated by the Children’s Rights Alliance which sees 15 member organisations leading in online safety, digital rights and youth participation unite to push for critical changes in the area. Members include Alcohol Action Ireland, Barretstown, Barnardos, CyberSafeKids, Dublin Rape Crisis Centre, Foróige, Irish Heart Foundation, ISPCC, National Youth Council of Ireland, One in Four, Psychological Society of Ireland, Rape Crisis Network Ireland, Scouting Ireland, SpunOut.ie and Young Social Innovators.
Contact: Emma Archbold Children’s Rights Alliance, Tel: 01-662 9400 / 0879971410, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Sarah Bermingham, ISPCC, Tel: 087 315 7552 Email Sarah.Bermingham@ispcc.ie
Notes to Editor:
- Spokespeople from each organisation are available for interview upon request.
- You can read the submissions to the Joint Oireachtas Committee through the following links: Children’s Rights Alliance #OSMRBill
- The new campaign focusing on online safety for children and young people includes: Alcohol Action Ireland, Barretstown, Barnardos, CyberSafeKids, Dublin Rape Crisis Centre, Foróige, Irish Heart Foundation, ISPCC, National Youth Council of Ireland, One in Four, Psychological Society of Ireland, Rape Crisis Network Ireland, Scouting Ireland, SpunOut.ie and Young Social Innovators.
- The campaign is supported by The Community Foundation for Ireland via The RTÉ does Comic Relief Fund #RTEComicRelief
Please include details of our Helpline for your readers:
Children's Rights Alliance Helpline: 01 902 0494
Open Mondays 10am to 2pm, Wednesdays 2pm to 7pm and Friday 10am to 12 noon.